The Genesis To Revelation Bible Course
By WILLIAM M. GROOM, Th.M., D.D.
Lesson No. 14 – Ezra
COPYRIGHT, 1921 BY THE BIBLE STUDY PUBLISHING CO.
* KEY THE LAND, THE TEMPLE, AND THE SCRIPTURES.”
* KEY PHRASE–“THE RESTORATION of Ezr 3:8, “Set forward the work.”
Read this lesson and then the whole book of Ezra. Resolve to read the whole Bible through in connection with this Course. The following selections are for the family altar.
* Sunday–Decree of Restoration.–Ezr 1.
* Monday–Altar Set Up.–Ezr 3:1-8.
* Tuesday–Enemies Seek to Hinder,–Ezr 4:1-10.
* Wednesday–Enemies’ Letter to the King,–Ezr 4:11-24.
* Thursday–Prophets Encourage the Work,–Ezr 5:1-12.
* Friday–Temple Finished.–Ezr 6:15-22.
* Saturday–Ezra’s Work,–Ezr 8:21-36.
NAME–This book was named for its author, Ezra, the priest, teacher and reformer, who was from one of the best Jewish families, and who could trace his line back to Aaron. Ire was the first of the scribes, who, in our Lord’s time, had degenerated so that they were odiously connected with the Pharisees. He was called a scribe because he was a teacher, and copier of the Law of Moses and because he compiled the list of inspired books of the Old Testament. He also instituted synagogues for the first time for the local worship of the people.
PURPOSE–To give an account of one of the most important events in Jewish history–the return of the people of Judah (the southern kingdom) from the Babylonian captivity. The northern ten tribes who were carried away captive to Assyria never returned. Some of the people doubtless conformed their lives and religion to the standards of the nations around them. A faithful few likely found their way back to the land of their fathers, but what became Of the ten tribes as a whole is a question of tremendous interest. There is a vast deal of evidence that the Anglo-Saxons are the direct descendants of the Ten Tribes, and this author fully discusses this question in his book, “The Chosen Nation.”
From this time, owing to the predominance of the tribe of Judah, the people are known as “the Jew.”
TIME OF WRITING–About 444 B. C. The first six chapters covers 23 years, and mark the return of 50;000 under Zerubbabel B. C. 536. Between the sixth and seventh chapters there is an interval of 57 years during which the incidents of the book of Esther occur, then Ezra at the head of 6,000 exiles returned, B. C. 458. (The book covers 80 years in all.) Thirteen years later Nehemiah arrived at Jerusalem to build the walls of the city. 445 B. C.
Great Fact I. The Return from Babylon
Ezr 1; 2.
The Babylonian captivity did not bring the Jews to national repentance and therefore did not lead to national restoration. The Babylonians had been conquered by the Medes and Persians. When Cyrus, their king, gave permission to the captives to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple, only 50,000 availed themselves of the privilege, and they never did regain their political independence but were subject to Genesis tile rulers. God stirred up Cyrus to let his people go, and he gave into the hands of Zerubbabel 5,400 vessels of gold and silver which
Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple when he captured Jerusalem. Besides this, the people took with them a great store of goods. The genealogies had been carefully kept during the captivity. They now set forth on the long journey, which occupied about four months over the 700 miles from Babylon to Jerusalem. From the first deportation of the Jews to the return was exactly 70 years, and there was a reason why it should be just 70. Israel had not kept every seventh year as a Sabbath year of rest for the land. Seventy Sabbatic years were desecrated, so it took seventy years of captivity to atone for the sin. Nor was the discipline in vain. The Jews were cured of idolatry; they have never since observed the religion of their heathen neighbors. They showed a new devotion towards the Sanctuary and learned the value of the scriptures as never before. Thus God overruled the captivity for their good.
LESSON–Trouble will sometimes teach us what nothing else will. Indeed, it is very useful and profitable to the real Christian. Jonah slept while on board the ship, but immediately he was cast into the sea, be repented and prayed. The prodigal had no thought of returning to his father’s house until he got into trouble. A slave being given a bitter melon by his master immediately ate all of it. “How was it possible,” said the master, “for you to eat so bitter a fruit?” The slave replied, “I have received so many favors from you that it is no wonder that for once I should eat a bitter melon from your hand.” The spirit of this answer was so (fine that his master immediately gave him his liberty. In such a spirit we should receive all our discipline and trials from the hand of God.
Great Fact II. Rebuilding of the Temple
Ezr 3; 4; 5; 6.
After the return to Jerusalem, the people began by setting up the altar of daily sacrifice. It was wise for them to begin with God. The altar of sacrifice (the burnt offering) was the center of the Jewish religion, just as its antitype, the Cross, is the center of Christianity. Care was taken to build the new altar on the foundations of the old one, doubtless to indicate the fact that the religion they brought back from captivity was the same as that they had taken away with them. The worship as prescribed in Leviticus is re-established, and the foundations of the temple are laid amid tender memories and bright hopes.
The Samaritans, who were the descendants of an Assyrian colony planted in the province of Samaria, asked but were refused permission to join them in this work. When permission was refused they hindered the work by withholding supplies, and by lodging accusations with the king of Persia, under whom the Jews were subject. Work now had to be suspended for about fifteen years, during which time they had the altar and a tabernacle. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah stimulated the flagging zeal of the builders, and new permission being obtained, the work was resumed, and proceeded so rapidly that in 516 B. C. the temple was completed and dedicated with great joy.
LESSON–Every important work has its hindrances, and no great results have been achieved without overcoming obstacles Hidden away, however, God usually has a Haggai who will press the reform at all costs. Whenever there is a great task to be accomplished there is always a clamor for a delay. God needs men of action who will not stand shivering on the banks thinking of the cold and danger, but men who will jump in and scramble through. Life is too short for so much hesitation and calculation. “Act in the living present, the heart within, and God o’er head!”
Once the temple was finished the people began to live a new life. The house of God supplies the spiritual needs of man. The instinct of worship leads men to find peace within the walls of the sanctuary. The preaching of the everlasting gospel meets the human need of salvation. In the sanctuary, we dream dreams and see visions of the Land beyond the setting sun. “There Heaven comes down, our waiting souls to bless.” Let us set great store upon the place where we meet God.
Great Fact III. Ezra’s Ministry in Jerusalem
Ezr 7; 8.
Eighty years have now elapsed since Zerubbabel and his company had returned to the holy city, Ezra with about 6,000 souls now set forth to Jerusalem. He assembled his company at the river Ahava, due east of Damascus, proclaimed a fast there and called on God for protection and blessing. Four months were occupied in crossing the desert. Besides carrying with them a multitude of gold and silver vessels, Ezra and his people had an order from the king authorizing the state treasurer at Jerusalem to pay him what was necessary for his sacred task.
Upon his arrival at Jerusalem, he put down idolatry, and arranged, edited and published the Old Testament, a work for which he will always be famous. He then read the scriptures publicly in the presence of the people and set up synagogues at all central places, for the reading of the Law, prayer, and exhortation. The synagogue system tended greatly to reduce idolatry and promote devotion to the worship of God.
LESSON–We also may be devout students of God’s will as revealed in His Word “preparing our hearts to seek the law of the Lord to do it.” We may open our hearts to receive heavenly influences, and gain by humility and prayer, “the hand of our God upon as for good.” We may make known the will of God to others, teaching the truth of Jesus Christ. We may co-operate cheerfully with others, yielding our preferences to their, “being of the same mind in the Lord” with those who are our fellow laborers in Christian work.
Philips Brooks gave as a definition of faith “Forsaking All I Take Him.” It will be noticed that the initial letters spell faith. It would be a good thing if, like Ezra, we made as the motto of our lives,
“Forsaking All I Take Him!”
Great Fact IV. Separation
Ezr 9; 10.
Ezra found that the Jews had paid no regard to the law which prohibited their marriage with idolaters and that the very princes had been foremost in forming these unhallowed alliances. Ezra was deeply mortified and ashamed of this offense and made confession unto God for the people. With contrite hearts, the people put away their idolatrous wives, purity was again restored and the Law honored.
LESSON–As Christians, we are under obligations to renounce the world and all familiar intercourses with those whose character and conduct might prove a snare to beguile us into sin, 2Co 6:14-17. In the very names of believers, we find something to suggest separation, “a. garden enclosed,” Song 4:12; “a lily among thorns,” Song 2:2; “a peculiar people,” 1Pe 2:9. A Christian is represented as a “soldier,” 2Ti 2:4, who obviously cannot discharge his duty if he makes friends with his Master’s enemies. Of course, this separation does not mean the cold, haughty distance of the Pharisee. Civility and kindness must not be neglected, but we must keep away from those who would make us lose out personal piety or who would blunt out consciences.
A converted Chinaman, when in America was deeply impressed with the little difference he saw between the style of living of many Christians and the men of the world. He said, “When Christians in my country come out from the world, they come clear out.”
Questions on the Lesson
1. For whom was this hook named, and what was he?
2. Who was the first scribe and why so-called?
3. Give the time of writing and period covered by this book.
4. Name the keyword and key verse.
5. Have you read the book of Ezra?
6. What is the purpose of the book?
7. Why were the Israelites called “Jews”?
8. Name the great facts,
9. How many Jews returned with Zerubbabel?
10. How many with Ezra?
11. How long and why the captivity?
12. Of what were the Jews cured?
13. How should we receive the discipline from the hand of God?
14. Why was the new altar built on the site of the old one?
15. Who were the Samaritans, and what did they do?
16. What did the prophets Haggai and Zechariah do?
17. Of what value is the House of God?
18. What was the period between the two returns?
19. For what is Ezra famous?
20. What would be a good motto for our lives?
21. In what way should Christians renounce the world?